Big city problems have struck the village of Amisk, Alta. The mayor of the community of 200 says crime is worrying many of his neighbours.
“A year ago, our local bank had been robbed at machete point,” said Mayor Bill Rock. Amisk is 220 kilometres southeast of Edmonton.
Last month, the bank was robbed again. That same night, thieves also robbed the post office and vandalized the convenience store owned by Rock.
He says these kind of crimes are new.
“Our biggest crime we had three years ago: we had a goat that was eating people’s flowers. We’ve gone from a community with a goat problem to a community with armed robberies.”
On Monday, Rock and other mayors from the region met with RCMP officials about their crime concerns.
Rock says the meetings were helpful. Many in the area were worried crimes were being committed and the criminals were looking for new targets. Police told Rock they’ve made several arrests related to the crimes.
That eases some of the anxiety felt by community members.
Rock says villagers are focusing on prevention as well. They’re working with police to create a citizens-on-patrol program.
This isn’t a problem limited to Amisk. Rock says he has heard from other Alberta mayors saying they have similar concerns and he blames, in part, the economic downturn.
“I haven’t seen it this bad since the 80s when we went through the last big economic downturn,” he said.
The issue also became political on Tuesday
Rock was in Edmonton for the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association’s annual meeting of mayors.
In a question-and-answer period with the municipal affairs minister, Rock pushed Shaye Anderson for help tackling crime problems.
Anderson responded by saying: “I know the justice minister will be coming forward with some information shortly. You’ll be hearing some things in the budget.”
Rock later went to the legislature where his Wildrose MLA introduced him to the house.
Wildrose Leader Brian Jean led off Question Period with questions on crime. He asked the government when the NDP would “start putting the resources we’ve asked for to keep Albertans safe?”
The justice minister responded by saying she is “very concerned to see any increase.”
Kathleen Ganley went on to say addressing the crime problem requires money and she would hope the opposition Wildrose would support any proposed increased spending.
Recent numbers from Statistics Canada show Alberta’s Crime Severity Index jumped 18 per cent from 2014 to 2015.
That statistic, though, looks at crime in both cities and rural areas. It also considers the types of crimes committed, not just the numbers of crimes.
RCMP from Alberta say their analysts are trying to compile statistics which measure changes in rural crime rates. That job is not yet complete.
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